The UFC is headed down under to Australia to produce a card heavy on the bigger weight classes, with 4 of the 6 main card bouts at either heavyweight or light heavyweight. The main event features behemoths Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva facing off with hometown favorite Mark Hunt and the co-main event is longtime superstar Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua against another hometown favorite in James Te Huna. While none of these fighters are really at the top of their division, they all have an outside shot of making moves up there and considering that all of them are coming off of loses, that road would start here for all of them.
This could be one of the last editions of Fight Night to feature a majority of established veterans on the card as the UFC is moving towards using the Fight Night as a vehicle to develop young and unestablished talent as well as appeal to the local fans. As a result, this could be one of the last editions to capture the attention of the casual fan. No offense, but I have a hard time believing that the casual fan has heard of Hyun Gyu Lim much less cares about him.
Onto our present card though...
Does anyone actually believe that this bout has any chance of actually going all 5 rounds? I didn't think so either. I don't think anyone wants to see that either. Anyone else remember the Mark Hunt-Ben Rothwell disaster of UFC 135? At least this won't be in Denver.
Hunt has been one of the greatest Cinderella stories in recent years as the UFC wanted to buy out his contract after acquiring it along with the rest of the Pride assets, but Hunt wanted to fight out his contract. After losing his first UFC match to Sean McCorkle, he reeled of 4 straight victories after that, 3 of them by impressive KO. He then lost to Junior Dos Santos in one of the best heavyweight bouts in recent memory by spinning head kick. He has a world class kickboxing background, but largely relies on his fists rather than his feet. He isn't exactly elusive, but he has a granite chin (and don't say anything about Dos Santos cracking it... granite can be cracked) which allows him to usually withstand a beating before landing the knockout blow. His grappling game has improved to the point he can get out of submissions (see Stefan Struve fight), but it would still have to be the weakness in his game as he has exhibited zero offensive grappling. An X-factor could be that he recently spent a good amount of time recovering from a nasty staph infection since his last fight, but with Hunt its hard to say how big of a factor it would play.
Silva is a great conundrum. He can seem unstoppable as he showed during his destruction of Fedor Emelianenko and helpless at others as his destruction at the hands of Cain Velasquez not once, but twice. Silva suffers from acromegaly which explains his massive size. He possesses awesome power (anyone else remember his KO of Alistair Overeem?) as a result, but unlike Hunt, he possesses an awesome ground game as well with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He doesn't often use it as his size and strength make his difficult to submit which leads to few wanting to grapple with him. He severely lacks in the quickness department however, which means those smaller than him can usually land shots on him and those with the strength to do so can rather easily take him down if they have no fear of his submissions.
This is either going to be an awesome (and fairly short) fight or a real stinker. Both fighters are large, needing to cut down to make the 265 lb. limit and both hit very hard. Hunt has been doing very well in the underdog role and this bout is in Australia, making it very hard to pick against him. But with Silva's ground game, 8-inch reach advantage, and Hunt's advancing age (39), I gotta believe that Bigfoot will pull this one out. One thing I am less sure about is how it will happen. We'll say... Silva by Submission in 2nd Round
It used to be that any fight with Rua was met with excitement at the possibility of someone being pulverized at his hands. Not so much anymore as Rua's body has taken a huge toll from his all-out style over the years and is no longer the same fighter that he once upon a time was. He has lost three of his last four and the one victory was a much-more-difficult-than-it-should-have-been slugfest with Brandon Vera. Is Rua done? He hasn't lost by violent KO so it isn't a fact that his chin has disappeared, but his body absorbs much more damage than it dishes out. He has shown flashes of his old self at times (his knockdown of Gustafsson for example), so the hope is he can put it together for an entire match. Other than his balls-to-the-wall striking, he possesses a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, though he has rarely utilized it, recording just one victory via submission in his career. He has shown poor takedown defense recently which could be a factor in this match.
Te Huna was on a role having won 4 in a row and 5 of his 6 Octagon appearances before falling to the hurricane that is Glover Teixeira by submission as an injury replacement. He possesses an awesome chin, never having been knocked out and possesses a great ability to put his opponents to sleep with a boxing-centric style owning 10 KO/TKO's himself. Though he usually doesn't take the fight to the ground, he does possess solid takedowns and the ability to stop himself from being taken down. That should mean that Te Huna should be able to take the fight where he wants... but where will he want the fight? On paper, Rua should have the advantage on both spectrums. Te Huna does struggle with his submission defense so its possible Rua will be more comfortable in that realm than Te Huna.
This is a difficult match to pick. With all the miles on his body it is easy to forget that Rua is actually younger than Te Huna (though just barely). Rua seems to own the advantage in everything except his chin and wrestling, but those could be all the difference. I've been going back and forth (and sure I will after this is posted) and here I'll go out on a major limb. Rua by Submission 1st Round
Bader is again on the verge of falling out of relevancy as he is coming off of another loss against the top of the division as seems to happen every time he gets the opportunity to advance in the standings, this time falling to Glover Teixeira. He came out aggressive in that bout and looked good for a good portion of the bout before he got caught by a solid left from Teixeira. Bader has made quick work of the mid-tier fighters in the division, disposing of Jason Brilz and Alexander Matyushenko in less than 90 seconds each. He has fallen in love with his boxing as of late and even though it has greatly improved since he entered the sport, he has had little to do with his vaunted wrestling game recently. But maybe that has more to do with his inability to takedown his recent opponents... That said though, he has also shown improvement in his submission game and though he isn't exactly slick with his subs, he can catch his opponent in a sub that accentuates his strength like a guillotine.
Perosh experienced a rebirth in the UFC since fighting at 205. He is 4-1 at the weight and recently showed some power that most of us thought was non-existent in his fists by KOing Vinny Magalhaes in just 14 seconds. He is more known for his Brazilian jiu-jitsu as he owns 9 of his career victories by submission. He is a highly intelligent fighter who rarely possesses more physical talent than his opponent but has been finding ways to to outsmart them and walk away with the victory more often than not. The only exception in his last 5 bouts was his 7 second KO loss to Ryan Jimmo, so other than a questionable chin, we learned basically nothing about Perosh from that match.
I will give Bader credit in that he seems determined to break into the upper-echelon of the division as he has come back with a vengeance from his losses and took it to Teixeira with an aggressive plan no other UFC opponent has shown towards him. Perosh has proven to be game, but at 41, he is past his physical peak and Bader is in his physical prime. Bader overwhelms Perosh here. Bader by TKO 1st Round
Win or lose, it seems like Barry is always in a bout of high entertainment value. He has had one career fight go to decision which tells you that someone is gonna tap or go to sleep in his fights. He is one of the best pure strikers in the game, particularly with his kicks as his kickboxing background would show. The thing that holds him back are his grappling and questionable chin. He has made strides to improve his grappling (he came close to submitting Christian Morecraft a couple of times), so unlike it seems with others (Diaz brothers come to mind), he is aware of his weaknesses and does try to improve them. He is also rather short for a heavyweight and the reach disadvantage that he possesses has bit him in the ass at times, but not always.
The only thing saving Palelei from working in another organization is that he was able to eek out a win in his return to the company in his last fight, a highly disappointing affair. He gassed within (a) minute(s) and was only able to finish his opponent, Nikita Krylov, since he tired as well in the third round. This was the second highly disappointing match for Palelei in the Octagon and he may need a win to keep his job here as well. Granted, he did have a rib injury that affected his cardio in his last match, but everyone fights hurt. Now that I've buried him, something positive. Palelei has a wrestling background (what does that mean from Australia though?) and even possesses a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Despite these credentials he has rarely won by submission as he truly lives up to his nickname of 'The Hulk' with 15 career KO/TKO's and enormous girth which requires him to cut weight to make 265. Also worth noting is that the only loss on his ledger since his disappointing UFC debut was to Daniel Cormier, not exactly a chump.
It's impossible not to love Barry and his oddball personality, but Palelei has more to lose here. He's in his home country, has two bad performances on his ledger, and could very well be cut if he loses. Barry could be cut with a loss as well, but he's a fan favorite so I believe he'd be kept around. Someone will clearly win (Palelei has never gone to decision) and I say with Barry's more questionable chin and roughly 6-inch reach disadvantage, he'll be the one going down. Palelei by KO 1st Round
Andrews is a veteran striker of the sport who generally seems to just outwork his opponent with craftiness. He doesn't possess solid but not overwhelming power and goes about his business in a workman-like manner that seems to pay off. He'll wait for openings before capitalizing as his last bout with Papy Abedi illustrated as he was down two rounds before overwhelming the Swede with strikes. Having come up through the Ultimate Fighter as the last pick in season 17 and making it to the semifinals, he is somewhat of a fan favorite and for sure will be in his homeland of Australia. He isn't much of a grappler, but knows how to keep the fight on the feet.
Hester will be happy to oblige keeping the fight standing as his background is in boxing. Another TUF 17 veteran, Hester has shown lots of potential if he can round out his game. He completely dominated Frasier Opie to get into the TUF house with his boxing and largely did the same thing to Bristol Marunde in his official UFC debut. All but one of his victories have come by strikes and considering his inexperience, I doubt we would see a victory come from his any other way. He was taken down a few times by Marunde, but didn't allow him to do much and stuffed two-thirds of his attempts. That will likely be key in this match.
Andrews is a very likeable guy and I believe he is the favorite here. But I look at Hester and I see a bigger, stronger, and flat out better version of Papy Abedi (stand-up fighter with little to no ground game) against whom Andrews needed to make a comeback. I don't think Hester will allow him that opportunity, but it will likely be a fun fight. Hester by KO 3rd Round
Kedzie has been in the fight game for a decade and fought many of the top women in the game. She is on a three fight losing streak though and may be close to the end of the line at this point. She is somewhat of a brawler, but does have a submission game to fall back on as well. She has a diverse striking game accentuated by beautiful head kicks which are fully capable of putting her opponents of highlight reel KO's. Her recklessness can get her in trouble, but that usually occurs against experienced opposition and for the most part serves her well. She falls under the 'good at everything, great at nothing' category.
Correia has only been fighting for two years and her lack of experience shows in her striking game. That isn't to say that she is bad by any means, but her striking is rudimentary. It consists of a lot of overhand rights with the occasional jab and some leg kicks mixed in there. She doesn't pack a lot of power, but has shown the ability to swarm and put her opponent in danger. Patience seems to be the greatest attribute that she has as she doesn't get sucked into her opponents style of fight prefer to find the holes in her opponents defenses at her own leisure. She has exhibited nothing on the ground outside of ground and pound and this could pose an issue.
Kedzie is the type of opponent that Correia should be wary of. She has seen everything, knows how to get out of a bad situation, and knows how to overwhelm her opponents. But Kedzie is also the type of opponent that Correia can and should learn a lot from and be a better fighter in the future. She's going to take a loss getting that lesson though. Kedzie by Decision
Mizugaki has been stuck in the proverbial role of gatekeeper ever since the WEC merged with the UFC, but with a victory here he would own 4 straight victories and could end up moving on to better things. He has a brawling style with very little kicks which has served him well up to this point. He has only been finished twice indicating a solid chin and grappling game on the defensive end. He isn't incapable of finishing with a sub, but rarely has done so. He doesn't have many KO/TKO finishes either (5), despite looking for haymakers quite often, reflecting a lack of power in his punches. This style can lead to opponents beating him using a crafty game plan, but they need to stick to the plan.
Phan is up there with one of the biggest hearts in the fight game, but has often been overwhelmed physically leading to one-sided affairs (see Jimy Hettes, Dennis Siver). Perhaps him dropping down to bantamweight will cure those woes. He owns a black belt in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo, but those skills have rarely been seen since he came into the UFC. He has gotten involved in some entertaining slugfests showing solid boxing skills, indicating that this fight could turn into the type of brawl that he had with Leonard Garcia (twice) or Cole Miller. His wrestling is his gaping hole as Hettes and Siver took him down at will and dominated him.
Mizugaki loves a good brawl and Phan is prone to falling into them. I see these two brawling it out in a FOTN candidate. If Phan can effectively make the weight cut I believe that it will be a solid move for his career. But Mizugaki is a difficult assignment to draw on your first venture into a new weight class and Phan falls in his bantamweight debut. Mizugaki by Decision
Magalhaes is a large middleweight with an extensive background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, owning a black belt. In his last match he pulled out a victory with a RNC over Karlos Vemola, attempting submission after submission and peppering him with shots before latching on for the finish. He showed an iron chin in that match as Vemola dominated the first round rocking him with numerous hard shots. He is sloppy with his striking technique, but does pack a hard punch when it lands. He is capable of taking the fight to the ground, but uses his strength more than technique, similar to his striking.
Ring has been at the center of some contentious decisions against Court McGee (twice) and Riki Fukuda. The biggest problem that Ring has had is his gas tank as he tends to start strong and fade. Considering this has been an issue for a while and hasn't been addressed, I expect this to continue to be an issue. He is a very technically sound boxing-centric striker with the occasional leg kick mixed in there and an underrated grappler with sneaky good submissions. He won't control his opponent with wrestling, but can ground and pound and transition to the submission fairly fluidly (thus the sneaky good). He has a solid chin too as he has never been finished.
This match will likely start fast and finish sloppy. Though Magalhaes wasn't the one who gassed in his last fight, he was clearly the more exhausted of the two in his UFC debut against Buddy Roberts. We better hope this fight doesn't make it to the third round... but I got a bad feeling that it will. Ring by Decision
Scoggins is a young wild card. He has unique kickboxing style that is reminiscent of Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson with a wide variety of kicks. He has solid hands as well and has shown to be difficult to take down. If you were to watch his fights you would proclaim him a world beater. Problem is he hasn't exactly faced great competition as there isn't a truly recognizable name amongst his opponents, even with most underground fans. He's only 21 and has shown the skill set for great success, but until he faces a step up in competition its difficult to truly measure his ceiling.
Vaculik is familiar to those who watched TUF Smashes, competing as a vastly undersized lightweight. He actually got two shots in the tournament as an injury replacement and was physically overwhelmed both times. He did show a lot of heart in his efforts though. His bread and butter is his submission game as 6 of his 9 wins are via submission. His striking isn't bad either, but is a fairly one dimensional boxing style. He's been fighting for about 7 years at this point and faced some solid opponents.
The smart money says to take the veteran who has faced more established talent and has a slick ground game. But I look at Scoggins and I see a confident (not cocky) demeanor that doesn't seem like the bright lights will affect him much. Throw in the fact that his standup is an unorthodox style and I think he provides a stylistic problem for Vaculik. One more note: Vaculik has never fought at flyweight... how will he handle the cut? Scoggins by KO 2nd
Jotko is a fairly raw European prospect. Sure, 13 fights is enough that he isn't inexperienced anymore, but there are still holes in his game. His striking is unorthodox (not really in a good way) with little power behind it. He is at his best taking the fight to the ground and pounding out his opponent there, but will struggle to take down UFC fighters who will have much more accomplished wrestling backgrounds than his European opponents to date. He has participated in 4 and 8 man one day tournaments which indicates he has a solid gas tank. If he works on his weaknesses he could develop into a roster mainstay.
Santos is a big middleweight. I mean massive. And he uses that to his advantage as he is very strong and is extremely effective with his takedowns. Once he gets you down it is hard to get up. He isn't a great offensive submission grappler, but he can defend submissions very well. His standup game is serviceable but nothing special. He largely uses it to set up his opponent to get the fight to the ground but can hold his own if forced to throw leather. He has faced some reputable names as well, including noted armbar expert Giva Santana and walked away arm intact.
This feels like one of the easier picks of the night. Santos is too big and strong for Jotko to play to his strengths and Santos will grind him out. Santos by Decision
If you look up the word stout in the dictionary it will more or less mention someone who is short and strong. Oh... and there will be a picture of Alex Garcia there as well. Garcia is very muscular which will automatically lead to questions about his gas tank, especially when only one of his matches has gone the distance. He has shown the ability to take his opponents down almost at will with a powerful double leg takedown. He has powerful strikes, but struggles to throw effective combinations. He also has a tendency to catch his opponents in a RNC, his submission of choice.
Wall is another TUF Smashes veteran who is taking this fight on short notice (less than two weeks) and fighting above his natural weight class of lightweight. He has an alright boxing game, but doesn't excel at anything. He hasn't fought top competition and the fact that he hasn't finished someone in three years is reason to worry. Nonetheless, he showed heart on the TUF show in his loss to Colin Fletcher.
While Santos and Jotko felt easy to pick, this one almost makes that pick feel like trigonometry. Wall is too small and Garcia is too strong. Garcia will smother him easily and take the wind out of the Australian crowd early. Garcia by TKO 1st Round
Feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree with my picks.